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    oh grow up
    So, I finished the book, but I feel as if I was kidnapped and victimized by Brockmann's skill as a writer.

    I am not a writer but that seems to be a pretty big complement *g*. The post is by a LyndaX at aar. The complaint itself, regarding violence in romance isn't a new one.

    But can we as readers, blame an author, because we read their book? And who gets to set the rules? Who gets to say, okay no one cross this line because it upsets me.

    If you read the last line in the post, the reader is tossing her hair and storming out of the message board to go email the author and the publisher. My question is why? What would you hope to accomplish with that?

    Of course I feel the same way about violence in romance as I do about bad bad words. Although I did love harlequin's response to one of the posters.

    I complain about the lack of westerns and the smaller numbers of historicals. But in saying this I am not trying to take away books other people are reading and enjoying.

    Have you ever emailed or snail mailed an author? What moved you to write? What kind of response can you give or expect from saying 'your books are too violent, dirty, fill with naughty words, so forth and so on'?

    I think I would write back saying grow up and don't buy anymore of my fucking books.

    Which is one more reason why it is a good thing I don't write *g*.
    Writing romance novels is not easy...
    Romance writers share secrets

    title is a lil goofy but cute article... Sabrina Jeffries will be sending in a report on the tour soon. LOL I think ;).
    beta blogger...
    Not really sure what it is.

    Beta Blogger

    I upgraded my blog but not my template cuz I scared...
    One Real Cowboy by Jan Kenny March 2007
    New Western! From Zebra! At the really cool debut price! But it doesn't come out until March 2007.
    Straight From The Heart

    Cord Tanner has a very simple plan: get paid to be Beatrix Northroupe's husband for a month so the prim, but sexy, Englishwoman can gain rightful ownership of her family's stud farm. Money in hand, he's going to get as far away from Revolt, Kansas, as a fast horse can take him.

    But Cord soon finds that he admires his Trixie's reckless courage--not to mention she's one great kisser. Maybe he's crazy to hope for a real future with her instead of heading for the hills, but now that someone's staking a dangerous claim to her farm, Cord's decided to stick around as long as the lady needs protecting. That wedding ring he put on her finger means her reputation is safe--and he's determinded to win her heart. Cord Tanner may not be the most refined man on the frontier, but he sure is the lovingest...

    You can check out Janette Kenny's site here.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare
    Hard Evidence is the sequel to Extreme Exposure and should be arriving in a mailbox near me soon *g*.

    Pamela says:
    I have two contemporary releases this year. The first is HEAVEN CAN'T WAIT (June), which is part of the anthology CATCH OF THE DAY. It includes characters from EXTREME EXPOSURE and is the funniest, lightest thing I've ever written. The second is HARD EVIDENCE (November) which is the sequel to EXTREME EXPOSURE and tells the story of Tessa Novak, an investigative reporter, and Julian Darcangelo, a rogue special agent on the trail of a human trafficker.


    A little more info from the site tells us:
    It revisits the Investigative Team, or I-Team, of the Denver Independent, where Tessa Novak, the cop reporter, finds herself in deadly peril after witnessing an alleged gang shooting not far from the paper. Digging deeper into the shooting, she crosses paths with Julian Darcangelo, a tall, dark and dangerous stranger who, according to her research, doesn't even exist. She knows he's some kind of operative. But is he one of the good guys or a stone-cold killer

    Want more?!?! Wellllll how about an excerpt? What the hell how about a few chapters? Tempted? If so click the saint... no promises on how long it will be up. So get it while it is HAWT. (hope the format is ok, spacing didn't come over correctly, blog is formatted to a left align.. and any errors are mine - syb)

    Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare excerpt


    Coffee was Tessa Novak's heroin. And right now she craved it with the desperation of a street junkie. What she wanted-what she needed-was a triple-shot grandé skinny vanilla latté made with organic shade-grown Mexican beans. What she was going to get was toxic gas-station swill.

    Serves you right for losing track of time, girl.

    The last of the decent coffee shops had closed fifteen minutes ago while she'd been sitting stupidly at her desk reading through files.

    She nosed her car into the brightly lit gas station parking lot, braking for a couple skateboarders who seemed oblivious to the dangers of both traffic and gravity, and parked next to an SUV that was blasting Eminem. Then she grabbed her handbag out of her briefcase and stepped out of her car into the reek of exhaust and gasoline fumes.

    Even though it was October, the air was still warm-one of those strange Colorado Indian summers that dragged on forever. Although most of her friends at the paper were happy with the warm, sunny weather, Tessa wished it would hurry up and snow. She loved the cold, loved the fresh smell of a new snowfall, loved the way the landscape transformed overnight from dirty, gray city to a world of pure, sparkling white.

    She'd grown up in the South and hadn't made her first snowman until she'd moved to Denver three years ago at the age of twenty-five. Though that was the least of what had been wrong with her childhood, it had somehow become symbolic of everything else. The year's first snowstorm had become a kind of ritual for Tessa, an annual celebration of her escape.

    This year the snow was late.

    She hurried across the parking lot and through the glass doors. The smell of the city was replaced by the odors of stale hot dogs, industrial cleaner-and coffee. Cutting through the short line of people at the register, she followed her nose to the back counter and found a glass pot half-full of what looked like dirty motor oil.

    She stopped, stared at it, her mind at war with her craving. She looked over at the attendant, an older man with short gray hair and a bulbous nose. "How old is the coffee?"

    "How should I know?" He scanned some woman's cigarettes, didn't even look up.

    "Oh, I don't know." Tessa lifted the pot, sniffed its contents, kept her voice sweet. "Maybe you work here or something."

    "It was there when I came on two hours ago."

    Which meant it might have been sitting on the warmer since Jesus was a child.

    But a fix was a fix.

    Consigned to her fate, she tipped the black liquid into a large foam cup, then grabbed four vanilla-flavored creamer packets and dumped them in one at a time, wishing to God she'd looked at her watch twenty minutes sooner.

    She'd been working late again, more because she had nothing better to do than because she truly needed to. Her contribution to tomorrow's newspaper-a short follow-up piece about the police officer from the three-twenty-first who'd been killed on a domestic-violence call-had been filed hours ago. She'd taken advantage of her complete lack of a social life to spend her Tuesday night reading through more of the documents she'd requested from the police department's contracts office. She was on a fishing expedition, she knew, but that was how many of the best investigative stories began-with a reporter picking up rocks just to see what lay hidden beneath.

    And what had she found so far? Not so much as one wriggling worm.
    No lucrative contracts given to relatives. No padding of expenses. No money transferred to companies that didn't exist.

    Chief Irving ran a tight ship-not perfect, but tight.

    Tessa told herself she should be pleased. After all, she wasn't out to cut the Denver Police Department off at the knees. If the cops weren't crooks, that was a good thing. Unfortunately, "Nothing Bad Happening" didn't make for a splashy sixty-point headline.

    Tessa had moved to Colorado from Savannah to take a seat on the Denver Independent's elite Investigative Team-the I-Team-as the cop reporter. Relatively new to journalism, she'd been astonished to land the job. She'd worked hard to prove herself to Tom Trent, the paper's demanding editor in chief-okay, so the guy could be a frigging jerk-by putting in sweatshop hours, sacrificing sleep, and foregoing any chance at romance to justify her place on the team. But it had been a while now since she'd unearthed anything worth its weight in newsprint. What she needed was a big story.

    No, what she needed was caffeine.

    She lifted the cup to her lips, sipped, grimaced. It tasted far worse than she'd imagined, but it was potent. She took a bigger sip and started toward the counter, grateful to see the line was gone.

    She'd just pulled a couple bucks out of her purse when the door opened with a jingle and a pretty, young Latina ran in, panic in her eyes, tears streaming down her face. Barefoot, wearing cut-offs and a skimpy tank top, she looked strangely out of place.

    "¡Por favor, Señor, ayúdeme! Ayúdeme!" she sobbed. "¡Me van a matar!"
    Please, sir! Help me! Help me! They'll kill me!

    Startled, Tessa stopped in her tracks.

    The girl ran to the counter. "¡Ayúdeme! ¡Llame a policía!"

    But it was clear the attendant hadn't understand a word she'd said. He stared at the girl in open-mouthed confusion, frozen like a statue.

    Tessa's mouth reconnected with her brain, and she dug in her purse for her cell phone. "Quién? Quién te va a matar?"

    Who's going to kill you?

    The girl looked at Tessa through pleading, brown eyes, her entire body trembling, then glanced back over her shoulder. "¡Madre de-!"

    Mother of -!

    It was over in an instant that seemed to stretch on forever.

    A shiny black car, one tinted window sliding down. The girl's terrified scream.

    An explosion of bullets and shattered glass. A squeal of tires. The stench of burning rubber.

    Tessa found herself on the floor on her belly, the rapid hammer of her pulse overwhelming the silence. Before her, the girl lay lifeless in a pool of blood and coffee, her eyes open and empty, tears still sliding down her cheeks.

    # # #
    "Did you see the weapon?"

    Tessa had already gone over her statement twice. The cop, a young detective named Petersen whom she'd seen once or twice before, was just going through his notes, trying to be thorough. They'd brought her to the other side of the store while the scene was photographed and the girl's body was tagged and bagged. EMTs loaded the body bag into an ambulance for transport to the morgue. Another ambulance had already taken the attendant to the hospital with a suspected heart attack.

    Outside, lights from a dozen squad cars flashed red and blue. Uniformed officers kept the curious at bay. Others questioned bystanders or combed the store and parking lot for evidence. Over the years Tessa had been to hundreds of crime scenes, but this was the first time she'd seen it from a victim's perspective. Somehow it didn't feel real.

    "Y-yes, sir, just a glimpse." Why was it so hard to think? She pulled the blanket the victim's advocate had given her more tightly around her shoulders, tried to stop her shaking, forced herself to concentrate. "The shots came so fast."

    "But you couldn't see the shooter. Is that correct?"

    "I only saw his arm. He was wearing black gloves and a black leather jacket."

    "You didn't get the make of the car or the plates."

    "N-no, sir. I saw a shiny, black car, and then..." She felt herself moving toward tears, swallowed hard. "And then they started shooting."

    A shiny black car. Silver hubcaps turning. Spinning.

    "The hubcaps." She spoke without realizing it. "They had a separate piece in the center, jagged like a buzz saw. It was spinning on its own-or so it seemed."

    "So the driver's got himself a fancy set of rims. That might help us out. Did you see any emblem on them-any kind of symbol?"

    She tried to remember. "No, sir. I'm sorry."

    "I have to say I love your accent. Where are you from?"

    Confused by the trivial question, it took Tessa a moment to answer. "Georgia."
    It was then she saw him.

    He stood outside the police tape just on the edge of the parking lot, half in light and half in shadow. His hair was dark and pulled back in a shoulder-length ponytail, his jaw darkened by a heavy growth of stubble. At least six feet tall, he wore a pair of worn Levi's-and a black leather jacket. And he was watching her.
    Tessa met his gaze and felt her heartbeat trip. "There's a man-!"

    But he was already gone.

    "There was a man standing there-a man in a black leather jacket."

    Detective Petersen looked over his shoulder in the direction she was pointing, frowned. "Who can I call to come pick you up, Ms. Novak?"

    "Aren't you going to question him?" Tessa's gazed roamed the darkness.

    "I'll have one of the officers look around. Right now, I need to get you safely home. Do you have family I can call?"

    "No, no family." Even if she'd been on her deathbed and her mother had lived nearby, Tessa wouldn't have called her. She hadn't spoken with her mother for ten years. "I'll just drive myself. My car's over there."

    Detective Petersen looked at her through solemn brown eyes. "Sorry, but I can't let you drive. If there's someone I can call-a friend or coworker?"

    And she realized he was right. She shouldn't be behind the wheel. She could barely keep her knees from knocking. And suddenly she wanted to talk to Kara. "I'll do it."

    A former member of the I-Team, Kara McMillan was perhaps the best journalist Tessa knew and one of her closest friends. Kara had broken one of the biggest stories ever to hit Denver-and had come close to being murdered in the process. If anyone would understand how Tessa felt right now, it was Kara.

    Tessa fumbled for her cell phone, scrolled down until she came to Kara's name, and pressed auto-dial. It wasn't Kara who answered, but Reece, Kara's senator husband.

    "Kara's putting Connor and Caitlyn to bed," he said. "Can I have her call you back?"

    Somehow the warm sound of his voice made it harder for Tessa to keep it together.
    She felt tears prick her eyes, and her voice quavered. "I-I'm sorry to bother you, but I need a favor. I-I was getting coffee, and this car drove up, and... They shot her, Reece. She's dead."

    "Who's dead? Tessa, are you all right? Where are you? Are the police there?"

    "I-I'm fine-just shaken up, I guess." She forced her mind to focus. "I'm at the gas station at Colfax and York. And, yes, the police are here."

    "Find an armed officer, and stay close to him. I'll be right there."

    # # #
    Julian Darcangelo watched the pretty blonde climb into the Jeep of the man who'd come to pick her up-probably her husband or live-in lover. Her young face reflected both shock and horror, the reactions of the healthy mind to the fucked-up reality of murder.

    How long had it been since Julian had felt those emotions?

    He didn't even bother trying to remember.

    He watched the Jeep turn and head back down Colfax, memorized the license plate number out of habit, careful to keep to the shadows. He hadn't meant for her to see him, had wondered at the reaction on her face. She'd seemed to recognize him, but that was impossible. He'd only been in Denver for a few months and had spent most of his time in places no woman would choose to go. Besides, he knew without a doubt that he'd never seen her before. With long, curly blond hair and big eyes, she wasn't the kind of woman a man could easily forget.

    The killer wouldn't forget her either and might well come back to finish the job. Burien hated sloppy work. He wouldn't want a witness, particularly not one who might have spoken with the victim. It wouldn't surprise Julian if the shooter showed up dead in an alley in a week or so, riddled with bullets from his own weapon. Burien had a nasty temper, even for an old Russian mafioso.

    Julian had been pursuing Burien for what seemed like a lifetime. He'd started tracking Burien and his partners-Rafael Clemente García and Jarrett Pembroke-in the late nineties, eventually infiltrating García's operation. He'd sent García and Pembroke to prison, had called it justice when they'd died behind bars, García by suicide, Pembroke beaten to death by a fellow inmate who hadn't appreciated his choice of career. But Burien had slipped away.

    Julian had taken full responsibility. He'd let the job get to him, and his lapse in judgment had cost him his relationship with Margaux, left two good agents dead and given Burien the chance he needed to slip away. Julian had resigned the next day, but he'd never stopped looking for Burien.

    When Ed Dyson had called from HQ in D.C. and asked him to come back to help flush out Burien out of hiding, he'd agreed, even though it meant having to work with Margaux again. Ridding the world of Burien would be more than worth whatever personal price he might have to pay. For four months now, he'd served as FBI liaison to the Denver Police Department's vice unit, a position that allowed him to work independently, to utilize police resources at will and to spend plenty of time on the streets, sniffing out Burien's trail.

    And Julian was close, so close. He could feel it.

    He'd had the basement apartment down the street under surveillance for a week, had known it was one of Burien's cribs. He'd chosen not to move quite yet, sure he'd spook Burien and drive him further underground. He'd never imagined one of the girls would run. They never ran. They were too afraid, too drugged, too broken to run.

    Goddamn it!

    The plainclothes officer who'd been watching the place tonight claimed he didn't know the girl had bolted until Burien's men jumped in the car to follow her. He'd called it in, unsure how to intervene, uncertain whether his orders permitted him to intervene. Julian had been on the other side of town and had heard the call go out over his police radio. By the time he'd arrived, the girl was on her way to the morgue.

    Now Burien was responsible for another murder, and the weight of it settled on Julian's shoulders. He'd gotten used to that weight, to the burden of knowing he'd enabled a killer to keep killing. Both of them would pay-Julian by dragging that burden with him for the rest of his life and Burien when he landed behind bars or someone put a bullet through his skull.

    Julian watched the taillights of the Jeep disappear, hoped the man driving it had the smarts to protect the woman beside him, then glanced at his watch. First, he'd lead a team through the apartment to collect whatever evidence had been left behind. Then he'd head to the station and make certain the witnesses' names weren't in the police report where Burien could too easily find them. He turned and walked down the dark street, an image of the pretty blonde's stricken face in his mind.

    # # #

    "If only I hadn't frozen!" Tessa dabbed the tears from her eyes. She hated crying in front of people, even friends. "If only I'd dialed 9-1-1 right away or pulled her into the aisle!"

    She'd already had a shower to wash the girl's blood away and was wearing one of Kara's nightgowns and bathrobes while her own clothes ran through the washer and dryer.

    "It's not your fault." Kara sat beside her in sweatpants and a denim shirt that obviously belonged to Reece, her long dark hair pulled back in a sleek braid. She looked remarkably unruffled for a mother of two. "There's nothing you could have done in those few seconds that would have made any difference. "

    "Drink." Reece thrust a tumbler into her hands. "Kara's right. A display of potato chips isn't going to stop automatic weapons fire. It's a damned miracle you weren't killed, too."

    Tessa tried not to think about that. She knew it had been close. She'd been standing perhaps three feet from the girl when the shooting had started. "I guess it's lucky for me the guy could aim."

    Lucky for me. Not so lucky for her.

    She took a deep swallow of whatever Reece had handed her, unaware until she felt the burn that it was scotch. She coughed, then took another drink.

    "Oh, Tess, I am so sorry!" Kara rested a comforting arm around her shoulders. "And quit trying to act tough. You've just survived a nightmare. No one is supposed to be okay after witnessing a murder."

    Her sympathy cut through Tessa, unleashed new tears. "Did you blubber like this after that bastard at the cement plant tried to kill you?"

    "I had nightmares for months and cried a lot. Ask him."
    Reece nodded, his face grave. "If you weren't shaken up by this, you'd be weird."

    Tessa laughed. "Well, it's good to know I'm not weird."

    "I didn't realize you spoke fluent Spanish." Reece poured more scotch into her glass. "Did you study it in college?"

    Tessa shook her head, spoke without thinking. "I learned growing up."

    "In Georgia?" Kara looked surprised.

    But Tessa hadn't grown up in Georgia. She'd never told her friends where she'd been born or just how she'd come into the world. That life was behind her.

    She changed the subject. "I saw a man after the shooting. He was watching me while I was talking with the cops. He had on a black leather jacket just like the killer. When I spotted him, he vanished. I told the officer, but he didn't seem interested. Someone needs to find him."

    "I'm sure the police know what they're doing." Reece sat down on the ottoman in front of her and rested a reassuring hand on her knee. "You'd best leave that up to them."

    Both Tessa and Kara glared at him.

    He stood, pushed a hand through his blond hair. "Oh, wait. That's right. You're a reporter, and that means trying to catch killers, doesn't it?"

    "Reece!" Kara frowned.

    But Tessa needed to explain. "She was young. She was so young and afraid, and they killed her, just shot her down. I saw it happen. I watched her die. She pleaded with me to help her, and instead of helping, I watched her die. I have to do something."

    Reece crossed his arms over his chest, looking stern and senatorial. "Not tonight you don't. Finish that drink, then it's off to bed."

    "Thanks. You two are the greatest."

    A wail came from upstairs.

    "Caitlyn! I'm trying to wean her." Kara shook her head, then looked up at Reece. "Will you check her, hon? If she sees me, she'll just-"

    "-want breast. I have the same problem." Reece winked at his wife, a smile on his face, then headed up the stairs.

    Tessa found herself smiling, too. "You are so lucky, Kara."

    Kara gave her a reassuring squeeze. "You'll find a man of your own one day, Tess. Now let's get you settled."

    Tessa soon found herself lying between soft sheets that smelled of fabric softener, the roughest edge of her nerves smoothed by soap, scotch and friendship. There was something comforting about a home with a mother, a father and small children. She didn't know exactly what it was, but she liked it, perhaps because she'd never had it herself.

    You'll find a man of your own one day, Tess.

    How Tessa hoped that was true. She longed to have what Kara had-a career, babies, a happy marriage, a man who cherished her. Still, she wouldn't hold her breath. The women in her family had never had much luck with men. As she drifted off to sleep, it wasn't thoughts of her ideal man that filled her mind, but the image of the man in the black leather jacket.

    They found exactly what Julian had known they'd find at the abandoned apartment. The cops, new to this sort of thing, didn't know what to make of it, and Julian, wanting to prevent leaks, wasn't going to fill them in.

    The front room was a mess of junk food wrappers, empty and half-empty liquor bottles, and other trash. A stained beige couch faced a television that sat on an overturned crate. Beside the crate sat dozens of videos, almost certainly porn, most of it homemade.

    The kitchen reeked of garbage gone bad, the trash piled high with used paper plates, beer cans, and food cartons. The dimly lit bathroom smelled strongly of urine and mildew, orange piss stains on the floor, grime and hair in the sink.

    "The maid's year off," Julian said to Petersen, who was still young and green enough to look shocked.

    Across from the bathroom, the smaller bedroom had held two unmade double beds crammed into opposite corners. An electric cord was tied around one of the bedposts-a crude and painful way to restrain someone. Apart from a handful of scattered videotapes, the closet had been empty.

    But it was the master bedroom that told the story. Four mattresses on the floor, their sheets stained with semen and old blood. A small plastic trashcan filled with dozens of used condoms. Black and gold condom wrappers scattered across the filthy tan carpet. A set of leather restraints-the kind used to tie a woman spread-eagle to a bed-in a heap in the corner. Used syringes, half-empty packets of birth control pills, antibiotics, maxi pads and boxes of unused condoms.

    "Holy fucking shit." Petersen gazed around him, clearly stunned. "She must've been a hooker. Look at all those syringes! Shouldn't we get the DEA in here?"

    Julian kept his tone neutral, glanced at his watch. It would be oh-four-hundred before they finished here. "This is a vice operation until I say it isn't, Petersen."

    "Yes, sir."

    Julian thought of the girl whose blood he'd seen spilled on cold tiles tonight. She'd run for freedom, had gotten death instead. Someone had silenced her, but this evidence, if handled correctly, would speak for her. Julian would make damned sure of it.

    # # #

    Tessa got little sleep, her dreams turning to nightmares after the scotch wore off. Each time, it was the same-the girl ran through the door, begged for help, and was riddled with bullets while Tessa watched, frozen in place, unable to breathe or scream or move. And each time, Tessa woke up, gasping for breath and covered in cold sweat.

    She finally gave up trying to sleep at about four and watched CNN on mute until Kara and Reece got up. Then, while Kara got Connor ready for school, Reece gave Tessa a ride to the gas station to fetch her car.

    "You're welcome to stay with us for as long as you like," he said. "We're heading up to the cabin this weekend. We'd love it if you'd come with us. I hear it's supposed to snow in the high country."

    "Thanks. I might take you up on that." She gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then stepped out of his Jeep and turned to face the scene that had haunted her all night.

    It looked different in the morning light-small, dingy, desolate. The shattered doors and windows of the little store were boarded up. The building was cordoned off with yellow police tape. The interior was dark apart from one flickering fluorescent light.

    How many times had she driven past this place? How many times had she stopped in to gas up or get coffee? Now she wondered if she'd ever be able to walk through its doors again.

    It struck her as strange that if she'd made it to her favorite coffee shop on time, she wouldn't have witnessed the killing. It would have been just another press release, just another news brief-girl killed in drive-by, investigation ongoing.
    But she had witnessed it. She'd seen a young woman live out the last moments of her life in terror before being cruelly murdered. She knew she would never forget it.
    A red SUV pulled into the parking lot and stopped at a pump, and a man in a suit stepped out, yammering on his cell phone. It took him three swipes of his credit card to realize the place was closed. He drove off in a huff.

    Tessa fished her car keys out of her purse, unlocked her car and slipped behind the wheel, determined to pull herself together. She drove home, tried to revive herself with a hot shower, and did her best to hide the dark circles under her eyes with makeup.

    "You look like hell, girl," she told her reflection.

    Her reflection stared back through eyes that were red and puffy and full of shadows.

    A part of her wanted to call in sick and crawl into bed, but she was done crying. She knew she wouldn't be able to help anyone-most especially the girl who'd been murdered last night-by hiding. Besides, she probably wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. It was best to stick with her routine and face the day head on.
    Seeking the comfort of the familiar, she dressed in her favorite black silk suit-the color seemed fitting-and headed first to the local coffeehouse for a cup of salvation and then to the paper. By the time she'd had a few sips and made it to her desk, she felt almost human.

    She checked her phone messages and e-mails and then rummaged through the stack of press releases she'd grabbed from her in-box, searching. Ketamine stolen from another vet clinic. An alleged sexual assault. A fatal crash on I-70. But nothing on the shooting.

    Surprised not to find any mention of the murder, she picked up her phone and dialed.

    "We're not releasing the police report." Larry from Sheriff's Records was grumpier than usual. "The incident is still under investigation. You know the drill."

    Across the newsroom, Sophie Alton pointed at her watch and held up three fingers. They had an I-Team meeting in three minutes.

    Tessa nodded, gathered her notes for the meeting, reached for a sharpened pencil. "Is Chief Irving going to issue some kind of statement?"

    "You'll have to call the press office for that."

    She forced sugar into her voice. The least she could do was try to make him feel guilty. "Thank you, Larry. You've been so helpful. I know your time is very valuable. You have a good morning, and I'll be in touch."

    She hung up. "Bless his heart."

    "Larry being a dick again?" Matt Harker, the city reporter, stood and smoothed his hopelessly rumpled tie-the tie he put on every morning and threw on his desk every afternoon. "You know someone ought to investigate why city employees are so obnoxious. Does the city train them to act that way? Did someone steal their Prozac? Do they drink too much coffee?"

    "Don't knock coffee, Harker." Tessa picked up her latté and followed her coworkers toward the conference room. "It's not right to insult other people's religions."

    Sophie, her straight strawberry-blonde hair done in a sleek French braid, held back for her, notepad and water bottle in hand. "Are you all right? You look tired and upset."

    "Thanks." Tessa willed herself to smile as if she'd just been given a big compliment. "Tired and upset was exactly the look I was going for this morning."

    Sophie frowned. "Okay, don't tell me what's going on."

    Tessa saw the concern in her friend's eyes and wanted to tell her. Sophie was perhaps her closest friend. They'd shared the travails of working for Tom Trent, of being perpetually single and working in the male-dominated field of investigative journalism. But Tessa didn't think she could tell Sophie about last night-not without crying again.

    She would rather face a firing squad than cry in the newsroom.

    Tom was waiting for them by the time they reached the conference room, tapping his pencil impatiently on his notepad. He was a big man-over six feet and probably close to three hundred pounds. With a mop of gray curls on his head, he'd always looked to Tessa like a cross between a sheepdog and a linebacker, but his personality was pure pit bull.

    On his left sat Syd Wilson, the managing editor. It was her job to make the news fit and read well, and doing so under Tom's direction had turned much of her spiky, black hair white. Joaquin Ramirez, the sexy photographer who reminded the women at the paper of a young Antonio Banderas, was talking over photo possibilities with Syd, while Katherine James, the newest member of the team, read through her notes. Handpicked by Tom to take Kara's place, Kat had come to Denver from her hometown newspaper in Window Rock, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation, where she'd broken a big story about toxic uranium mining. Petite with waist-length dark hair and hazel green eyes that revealed her mixed heritage, she kept mostly to herself.

    Tessa took her seat, jotted down some notes, tried to tell herself this was just another Wednesday morning, just another I-Team meeting.

    Tom didn't bother with small talk. "Alton, what's the latest?"

    Sophie had barely taken her seat. "I got a tip yesterday about a woman who filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections. The suit claims she went into premature labor in lockdown, asked for help, and was ridiculed by the guards, who didn't believe she was having problems. She labored overnight in her cell alone, and her baby was stillborn the next morning."

    Tessa met Sophie's gaze, shared the disgust and anger she saw there. But this was what investigative journalism was all about-shining light into the dark corners so that wrongdoers could have no place to hide.

    Tom didn't react at all, but after a lifetime in journalism, he'd probably seen and heard everything. "What can you pull together by deadline?"

    "I can write up an overview of the lawsuit-probably fifteen inches. I'd like to follow up on the medical angle later in the week-how many doctors per inmate, how well-equipped the facility is to deal with women's medical emergencies and such. I've put in an open-records request and am getting the usual run-around."

    Syd nodded, scribbled, did the math. "Photos?"

    "The plaintiff's mugshot."

    Tessa's thoughts drifted back to last night. She didn't hear Matt talk about his story on city council members holding illegal secret meetings via a previously unknown e-mail loop. She didn't hear Katherine discuss the latest on Rocky Flats, the site of a former nuclear weapons plant now open to the public as a recreation area where people could picnic in the plutonium.

    ¡Por favor, Señor, ayúdeme! Ayúdeme! ¡Me van a matar!

    "Tessa!" Sophie leaned forward, touched her hand to Tessa's forearm.

    "Not enough coffee yet?" Joaquin grinned.

    Embarrassed, Tessa sat upright, looked down at her notes. "There's been another ketamine theft from a vet clinic. It's the third this month. I could contact the drug task force and see if we're looking at a new K craze. But there's something else... "

    She paused for a moment, steeled herself. "I witnessed a murder last night-a drive-by."

    A murmur of shock passed through the conference room.

    Tom said nothing.

    Tessa took a deep breath, forced aside her emotion. "I stopped off at the gas station on Colfax and York and saw a teenage girl get gunned down. I was standing maybe three feet away from her when they opened fire. The cops haven't released the report yet or issued a statement, but I'd like to run with it anyway."

    "God, Tessa!" Sophie stared at her through wide blue eyes. "You could've been shot!"

    True to form, Tom wasted no time on sympathy. "What did you have in mind?"

    As soon as he asked, Tessa knew. "I'd like to write a first-person, eyewitness account. I'd like to follow the case as it moves through the justice system. I can use my knowledge of the cops and courts to fill in the personal experience of witnessing the crime."

    Tom's bushy eyebrows came together in a frown, and he opened his mouth to speak.
    Sure he was going to reject her idea, Tessa interrupted. "I know it's unusual, but I can't be objective on this story anyway, so I shouldn't pretend. I think a first-person account will bring the idea of murder home to people in a way an ordinary news story can't."

    "I think it's a great idea," Syd offered. "It's sure to draw readership-a murder mystery being played out on the front page of the paper."

    Sophie, Matt and Joaquin offered their support, as well.

    "There's something you ought to consider." Kat tucked a strand of long, dark hair behind her ear. "You'll be letting the killer in on everything you know. Are you ready for that?"

    Tessa remembered the terror in the girl's eyes.

    ¡Por favor, Señor, ayúdeme!

    Screams. Bullets. Blood.

    The man in the black leather jacket.

    Instead of fear, she felt anger. "Yes, I think I am."

    There was silence for a moment.

    Then Tom tossed his pencil down onto his notepad. "All right, Novak. You're on. Just don't write anything sappy. We aren't goddamned Hallmark."

    # # #

    Gym bag slung over his shoulder, Julian walked down the hallway of the shabby hotel over threadbare blue and orange carpet that looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the seventies. He'd been in hundreds of places like this-roach-infested, pay-by-the-hour dumps that squatted in every city's darkest corners. One thing kept them in business-the buying, selling and trading of sex. Cheap, clandestine and staffed by people too poor and too street-smart to ask questions, they made the perfect place for working girls to take their johns, for married men who wanted a bit of tail on the side-and for scum like Lonnie Zoryo.

    Julian had been cultivating Zoryo, one of Burien's lackeys, for a few months now, playing the part of a repeat customer with a taste for the forbidden. He had enough on Zoryo to put him behind bars for several lifetimes, though he knew Zoryo wouldn't live to serve his entire sentence. Inmates had a strange intolerance for men who raped kids.

    Julian hadn't filled Dyson in on this op but had instead worked solo, sharing bits and pieces with Chief Irving. He wasn't officially on the FBI payroll, and he wasn't officially a cop. Subsequently he wasn't following anyone's official rulebook. He had his reasons.

    He walked to the end of the corridor and turned left, barely noticing the moans coming out of one of the rooms on the right. When it came to sex, nothing shocked him any more. Then again, he'd grown up on the lam with his father, thinking it was normal to get out of bed in the morning and find half-naked whores passed out next to his father on the couch. If Dyson hadn't pulled him out of that Mexican prison all those years ago, kicked his teenage ass and given him a new start, Julian would probably be spending a lot of time in places like this one.

    No, he'd still be in prison-or dead.

    Ed Dyson had come to visit him behind bars and had offered him a deal: Put your fluent Spanish and Mexican street smarts to use for us, or rot in your cell. Sentenced to thirty years for manslaughter at the age of seventeen for accidentally killing a man in a fist-fight, Julian hadn't needed to think hard about his answer. The man he'd killed had had lots of friends on the inside, and every one of them had wanted a piece of Julian. He'd never have survived the year.

    He owed Dyson his life.

    He knocked on the door to Room 69-Zoryo's idea of a joke-and waited. He felt the impact of Zoryo's heavy footfalls, saw a shadow pass over the peephole in the door. Locks tumbled, and the door opened to reveal Zoryo standing shirtless in a pair of khaki slacks. The tiger tattoo on his chest proclaimed his pedigree as a former Red Mafia enforcer, while his big, hairy belly spoke of his love for steak and booze. He stank of cigarettes, alcohol and old sweat. In his hand was a 9 mm Taurus.

    "Eh, Dominic, my friend. Good to see you," he said in his heavy Russian accent, motioning for Julian to enter, a big smile on his unshaven face. "Come in."

    Julian stepped into the room, took it in all at once: the unmade bed littered with CDs and DVDs; the open suitcase; the roll of duct tape and box of ammo on the dresser; the drapes concealing a single window; the half-empty bottle of vodka on the nightstand; the bathroom with the toilet seat up; the television showing Zoryo's twisted idea of a home movie.

    But that's what Julian had come to discuss. He was, after all, an eager customer.

    He slipped into the persona of Dominic Conti and a Philly accent. "Hey, Zoryo. What you got playing? Is it up my alley?"

    Zoryo shut and locked the door behind him. "You like girls, yes?"

    Julian dropped the gym bag on the bed, let it fall open to reveal the cash-a stack of hundreds-and turned to face the television screen. He fought back his rage and revulsion, pretended to like what he saw. "Ooh, she's nice-young and firm."

    On the screen, a naked Zoryo was committing rape. Together with a laundry list of other felonies, it would get him life. The son of a bitch was going to pay. Starting today. Julian would take him, and he would do all he legally could to break him. Then he would use the information Zoryo gave him to close in on Burien.

    Julian forced himself to concentrate on that fact and not what he was watching. If he wanted to help the young woman on the screen and the millions like her, he could not make the mistake he'd made last time. He could not let himself feel.

    "She was." Zoryo turned his gaze to the screen, a look of predatory lust on his face. Then he glanced over at the money. "You ready to buy?"

    "Of course." Julian reached into the gym bag, picked up the stack of hundreds, dropped it on the bed, knowing it would whet Zoryo's other appetite. "What else you got?"

    Zoryo took the bundle, flipped through the bills. "Where you get this kind of money? You come every week, pay with cash money."

    Julian knew Zoryo had already been digging on Dominic and had found the information he'd planted. "I work a few deals on the side-a couple sites on the 'net, a bit of Colombian agriculture."

    "Web sites? Drugs?" Zoryo dropped the bills back into the bag and did something completely unexpected.

    He raised the Taurus and pressed the barrel to Julian's temple. He moved his face close to Julian's, his breath stinking of vodka and cigarettes, his blue eyes flat and liquid. "It's all bullshit, Dominic. You do shit work-small time. You are small fish. You think you can compete with me, swim in my ocean?"

    Julian felt his pulse slow and his mind clear as it always did before violence. He knew the team was in position. In a moment, they'd break in, weapons drawn, to take Zoryo downtown. But why wait for them?

    Itchy from lack of sleep, Julian would enjoy this.

    He met Zoryo's gaze, grinned.

    In fewer moves than it took to brush his teeth, he had Zoryo face down on the floor, arm wrenched behind his back, his broken nose bleeding onto the carpet, the .45 lying harmlessly nearby. Zoryo gasped and groaned, too winded for words-probably the result of Julian's knee driving into his solar plexus.

    Julian pressed his .357 SIG Sauer against base of Zoryo's skull. "I may be a small fish, old man, but I'm also a federal agent. You're under arrest for being a fucking sick pervert. You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law-if you live long enough."

    Zoryo groaned.

    # # #

    Tessa splashed cold water on her face, the chill helping to stop her tears. She'd finished the article, knew it was some of her best writing ever. But when she'd gotten to the end, she'd lost it. Matt had seen. So had Kat. Sophie had offered her a box of tissues.

    Where were firing squads when you needed one?

    Mortified, Tessa had taken the only dignified course of action. She'd turned the article in to Syd and hurried to the sanctuary of the women's room, where she'd finally given in to the tears she'd been fighting all day.

    Behind her the door opened.

    "I thought I'd find you here." It was Sophie.

    "Lucky guess." Tessa reached for a paper towel, blotted her face, and opened her eyes to find herself surrounded. Sophie had brought reinforcements.

    Lissy, the fashion editor, stood with her hand on the curve of her four-months-pregnant tummy looking worried and glamorous in Vera Wang maternity. Holly, who wrote for the entertainment section and was Tessa's most annoying friend, stared past Tessa to the mirror and adjusted her short, platinum-blonde hair.

    "You're the only woman I know who thinks she has to hide when she cries," Sophie said.

    "And your solution is not to let me hide?" Tessa tossed the paper towel into the trash. "Bless your heart! How thoughtful."

    Lissy reached out and gave Tessa's hand a reassuring squeeze, her green eyes filled with concern. "Sophie told us what happened. We just wanted to make sure you're all right."

    "I'm fine."

    Holly looked away from her own reflection, fixed Tessa with a glare. "Like hell you are! You've got mascara down to your chin, and your skin is all blotchy. Here."

    Holly held out a little bag inside which Tessa found a sample-sized tubes of mascara, moisturizer and concealer, together with samples of blush, eye shadow and lipstick.

    "I always carry one with me. You never know when you're going to start bawling or end up at some guy's apartment overnight. You can keep that one. There ought to be enough to cover up a couple of crying jags."

    Tessa might have laughed off Holly's gesture as superficial-many of Holly's actions were-but more than anything she wanted to feel like herself again. "Thanks, Holly."

    While her friends tried to persuade her that crying in public was no reason to feel embarrassed, Tessa washed her face and put on fresh makeup.

    "You're human, Tessa." Lissy assured her. "Quit trying to be Superwoman. You make the rest of us look bad."

    Tessa finished applying mascara and tried to explain. "I don't know why I feel the way I do about crying. I guess to me it's a sign of weakness."

    Or instability.

    A memory of her mother sobbing on her bed popped into her mind-and was thrust quickly away.

    As she spoke those last words, the bathroom door opened and Kat stepped inside. "We Navajo believe a woman's tears purify. We think of them as a sign of strength, not weakness."

    Tessa lowered the mascara wand. "Then I must be one heck of a strong woman."

    "I just came to let you know your article made both Syd and the copy editor cry, so you're not alone." Kat looked straight into Tessa's eyes, something she rarely did. "Your words will make people feel the anguish of that girl's death. You'll make her real to them. You think you've done nothing for her, Tessa, but you have."
    Then Kat turned and walked out of the bathroom, leaving Tessa and the others staring after her in silence.


    It was just after dawn when Julian left the Denver County Jail and headed back to his house. Sunlight stretched warm and golden through the city, beating back the night, spilling its glow against the ragged wall of snowcapped Rockies to the west. He'd promised himself some time in those mountains when this job was done-provided he was still alive, of course.

    He sped south on Speer in his battered blue pickup. The window was down, cold morning air blasting him in the face. He wanted a shower. Zoryo's cloying stench covered his skin like a greasy film, and his mouth was slick with the putrid taste that came from talking to sick fucks like him.

    Aware he had only days, perhaps a week before Burien discovered that Zoryo had been arrested and moved to cover his ass, he'd spent the night hammering Zoryo with questions about his filmmaking habits, about Burien, about the girl's murder. He'd pushed Zoryo hard, denying him sleep, water, and food, watching him inch closer to breaking. There was no way the bastard was getting out, and Zoryo knew it. No criminal defense attorney would touch his case, and the public defender was no match for the kind of hard evidence Julian had collected. Zoryo's only hope lay in divulging what he knew about Burien and spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement where the other inmates couldn't rip him apart.

    Already the interrogation had yielded a few decent leads, including a strip club on Colorado Boulevard called Pasha's. Zoryo had offered up the name in exchange for the luxury of time on a steel toilet. He'd lead Julian to believe Pasha's might be some kind of drop-off site. Even if it the club was only used to launder money, it was another piece of the puzzle and, hopefully, another nail in Burien's coffin. Of course, that's assuming Zoryo wasn't making stuff up or leading him into a trap.

    "If you lie to me about what's out there," Julian had whispered, his face inches from Zoryo's, "there will be consequences in here."

    Then he'd left Zoryo under suicide watch in solitary lockdown, more to keep him alive than to intimidate him.

    Julian would check the club out later. First, he needed a few hours' sleep.
    He turned into the neighborhood where Dyson had placed him-the kind of working-class neighborhood where people kept to themselves and checked to make sure their doors were locked at night. He pushed the remote to open the garage, turned into the driveway of the bungalow that pretended to be his home, and slipped quietly inside. By the time the garage door closed behind him, he had already keyed in his password and was inside.

    He'd modified the house after he'd moved in, certain this wouldn't be his easiest assignment. With fireproofing, bullet-proof windows, and a state-of-the-art surveillance system, it was intended to withstand snipers and drive-bys and to alert him to anyone who came snooping around. It wasn't a home; it was a lair. As such, it offered only the basics-weapons, ammo, his computer system, his workout gear, a couch, a TV, his clothes, a few dishes, and a bed.

    Julian couldn't think of anywhere in his thirty-two years that he'd truly thought of as home. His life was a montage of dark streets, seedy hotels, prison cells, bare apartments, and nearly empty houses like this one.

    And if he sometimes wanted more?

    A man like him wasn't meant to live behind a white-picket fence with a wife and kids.

    He slipped out of his leather jacket, tossed it onto the couch. He removed his shoulder harness and Kevlar vest, slipped the Sauer from its holster and carried it with him to the bathroom. Then he placed his weapon on the counter within easy reach, stripped, and turned the water on as hot as he could stand it. He was about to step under the spray when his secured cell phone rang.

    Only three people had that number. He had no choice but to answer it.

    He turned off the water, walked naked into the bedroom, picked up the phone. "Yeah."

    "You have a problem." It was Margaux. She spat the words, the bitchy tone in her voice making it personal.

    Julian wasn't going to be baited. "Go ahead."

    "You see the front page of the Denver Independent this morning?"

    "No. I'm just getting in."

    "Well, how's this for a headline? 'Eyewitness to murder.'"

    Then Margaux read a first-person, exacting account of the shooting at the gas station. A description of the victim. The girl's plea for help-first in Spanish and then translated precisely into English. A description of the shooter's arm and the driver's car with its rims.

    As Margaux read, Julian realized the details could only have come from one person-the pretty blonde. He'd read her account of the shooting in the police report and had removed her name in what was now a wasted effort to protect her. Then he'd asked Irving not to release the report to the media. He hadn't known Tessa Novak was the damned media.

    Frustration and anger chased through him. Did she realize what she was doing? Was she that desperate to make headlines? Did she want to end up dead or worse?
    Just another damned journalist out to build her career on other people's misery.
    Margaux kept talking, her voice a syrupy poison in his ear.

    "Here's the best part: 'Then on the edge of the parking lot, I see him. Tall and surrounded by a air of menace, he's wearing a black leather jacket, just like the killer. His long hair is pulled back in a pony tail, and stubble covers his jaw. He watches me for a moment, half-concealed by darkness, and I find it hard to breathe. Am I looking into the eyes of a cold-blooded killer? I point him out to police, but he's already gone.'"

    The words hit Julian like a fist, made his brain buzz. He was a federal agent, someone used to moving in the shadows, and he'd just been described on the front page of the fucking newspaper! "Jesus Christ! Damn it!"

    "'An air of menace'-wow! Compelling stuff, Julian, though I think she's giving you too much credit." Margaux laughed, a cold, glassy sound. "Burien's men will be reading this. So will he. Do you think they'll make you from the description?"

    "I doubt I'm the only man with long dark hair and a black leather jacket in Denver." Still, it was a possibility he couldn't ignore. He would have to be prepared.

    At least now he knew why the blonde had seemed to recognize him-she'd seen his leather jacket and assumed he was the killer. The woman had good instincts. He was a killer, just not the killer.

    "You're getting sloppy, Julian. If you blow this case-"

    Rage flared in his gut, but he kept his voice calm. He was not going to let her throw what happened three years ago in his face every goddamned time they talked. "You stick to your Internet ops, and let me take care of the street."

    "And the reporter?"

    "I'll handle her." Chief Irving wouldn't be happy to see this either-the details of an ongoing investigation spilled to the public.

    "If you don't, Burien surely will. And you know what he likes to do with women."

    # # #

    Tessa arrived at the paper after what was almost a restful night's sleep, latté in hand, to find the I-Team meeting postponed and Tom waiting for her in his office.

    "Chief Irving is in there with him, and they've been shouting," Sophie warned her.

    "Oh, good! I just love to start the day with a bit of yelling." Tessa dropped her briefcase by her desk and walked to Tom's office, fairly certain she knew what this was about. "You two wanted to see me?"

    "Sit down, Novak." Tom gestured toward a chair, clearly angry. "Chief Irving was just explaining the limitations of the First Amendment."

    Tessa looked over at Chief Irving, saw he was angry. He was a big, beefy man with a with a round belly and white bristles for hair. He looked out at her from beneath bushy white eyebrows through pale blue eyes that told her he'd already had his fill of bullshit for the day-not surprising since he'd been conversing with Tom. He wore a tan trench coat over an awkward blue suit, his black shoes long since having lost their polish.

    "First, Ms. Novak, let me say how sorry I am that you witnessed such a terrible and violent crime. These past two days can't have been easy for you." His eyes and the warmth in his voice told her he meant what he said. It was certainly more than she'd gotten from Tom.

    Tessa swallowed the lump in her throat, looked at her feet. "Thank you, sir."

    "We'd like to catch these guys and throw them behind bars for the rest of their lives, but the story on the front of today's paper is going to make it harder for us to do that."

    That had her head snapping up. "How can that be? I would think making this information public might prompt people to call in leads."

    "That's because you're thinking like a journalist and not a government pen-pusher." Tom's interruption set Tessa's nerves on edge.

    Chief Irving pretended not to hear him. "It might bring us a few leads. But what it's really going to do is tell whoever is behind this murder exactly what we know."
    "How does that hurt anything? The killer already knows there are witnesses."
    "There were certain details-what the girl said to you, for example, or the spinning rims-that only someone who was at the scene would know. Those details might have proved helpful to us when interrogating suspects. That's why we opted not to release the police report. But you've just shared it with the entire Denver-metro area."

    Tessa felt her temper kick in. "People have a right to know what's happening in their neighborhoods."

    Chief Irving nodded, frowned. "Sure, they do. But they've asked us to do a job for them, and sometimes doing that job means temporarily controlling the flow of information."

    Tom gave a snort. "Spoken like a true bureaucrat."

    Tessa held up her hand to shut Tom up. "I know you and your officers have a job to do, Chief Irving, and I don't mean to make that more difficult. But I have a job to do, as well, and this time it's not just about journalistic idealism."

    Tom's frown deepened.

    "It's about a teenage girl who was shot down right before my eyes. She was a living breathing person, and someone murdered her when she wanted desperately to live. I have to do whatever I can to see that she gets justice, to make sure she isn't forgotten." Tessa felt a surge of hot emotion, felt tears prick behind her eyes. She willed them back.

    Not in front of Tom!

    Chief Irving nodded. "I understand that. I respect that. But it's not only the case I'm worried about, Ms. Novak-it's you. By announcing to the world that you're an eyewitness, you've made yourself a target. These guys aren't exactly shy about killing. I'd hate to see them come after you."

    Tessa had thought long and hard about this last night when she should have been sleeping. "What do they stand to gain by killing me now? Everything I know is now part of the public record. If they kill me, they'll just draw more attention to what I wrote. Surely they're not that stupid."

    "You're assuming they'd want to kill you to silence you. But what if they had an even more basic reason for coming after you?"

    Chills skittered up her spine. "Like what?"

    "Revenge. Pride." Chief Irving's lips curved in a grim smile. "Thrills."

    # # #

    Tessa walked through the main entrance to the hospital, feeling uneasy, her conversation with Chief Irving playing through her mind.

    "If I were you, Ms. Novak, I'd take a long vacation," he'd said. "Failing that, I'd buy a gun and learn how to use it."

    "I already own one-a twenty-two."

    "Good. Pack it. I've already ordered extra patrols for your street."

    Tessa told herself Chief Irving was just being cautious. There was no evidence to suggest her life was in danger. Kara had been getting death threats for a while before they came after her. Tessa hadn't even gotten so much as an impolite e-mail. She had nothing to worry about.

    Then why are you carrying a handgun, girl?

    Like Chief Irving, she was just being cautious.

    Tom had all but gone apoplectic when Chief Irving promised to give her an exclusive when the killers were caught, provided she dropped the story now. He'd launched into the thousandth rendition of his "Watchdogs of Freedom" speech, bringing a look of bored resignation to Chief Irving's face. Obviously, Irving had heard this speech before, too.

    "This is outrageous! No journalist at this paper has ever caved to pressure from the city, and I can assure you Novak won't be the first!"

    Chief Irving hadn't been pleased. "We'll be as helpful as we can be, Ms. Novak, but we're playing this one close to the vest. And don't go on a charm offensive against my men with that sweet southern accent of yours because I've warned them all not to discuss this case with you. If you want information, you come to me."
    Tessa had agreed to that much.

    She stopped at the hospital's front desk, asked one of the volunteers for Bruce Simms' room number. She'd spent the morning working on an add-water story about the recent ketamine robberies and had been about to launch into research about Denver's gang history, when she'd decided to check on the condition of the gas station attendant. The moment she'd learned he'd been moved out of Intensive Care, she'd known she had to speak with him.

    "Room three-thirty-two, miss."


    Tessa found Mr. Simms sitting up in bed, watching a soap opera in a blue-and-white hospital gown. He was pale but alert, an oxygen tube beneath his nose, deep reddish bruises on the backs of his hands from multiple IVs. He glanced over, saw her, and his eyes widened.

    Clearly he recognized her.

    "Mr. Simms? I'm Tessa Novak. I hope you don't mind my stopping by."

    "You like Days of Their Lives?"

    "I don't watch much television." She took that as an invitation and sat in the
    chair next to his bed. "I work during the day."

    "It's all crap anyway." He clicked off the television. "You're that reporter. You came in for coffee. I read your piece. You come here to interview me? I got nothing to say."

    "I'm here for personal reasons, Mr. Simms. You and I watched someone die. I thought-"

    "I didn't see nothing." His mouth was clamped shut, but his eyes-hazel eyes more gray than green-told a different story.

    "Oh, well, I imagine you were fighting your own battle for survival, weren't you?" She gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. "I'm terribly sorry that you became ill as a result of the shooting. I must say the whole thing nearly frightened me to death."

    Charm offensive? How dare Chief Irving reduce years spent studying deportment and communication to mere manipulation!

    Even though Mr. Simms had read the article, Tessa went through the story again, told him what she'd seen. The car. The rims. The blood. The man in the leather jacket.

    "She was so young, Mr. Simms. We were the last two people to see her alive. That matters to me."

    For a moment there was no sound but hospital noises from out in the hallway.

    "She used to come by most every Sunday afternoon with the others." Mr. Simms looked up at the dark television screen. "There were four of them, girls about the same age. They'd come in, buy gum, candy, maybe shampoo or lip gloss, then they'd go again. Never smiled. Never said a word till that night."

    It was the first real information Tessa had gotten about the girl. "Did you know her name? Do you think she lived nearby?"

    "I told you they never said a word, didn't I?" He glanced sharply at Tessa. "No, I didn't know her name. But, yeah, I think she must have lived nearby. They always walked to the store together. Never saw her by herself. It was always the four of them, and they were always dressed kind of shabby."

    Curious, Tessa couldn't resist asking. "Did you ever see her with anyone else-a man, someone who looked like a gang member? A man in a black leather jacket perhaps?"

    His eyes narrowed. "You're fishing for an article. I don't want to be in no newspaper."

    She met his gaze, held it. "No, sir. I'm trying to find some peace of mind. Besides, I would never quote you without making it clear you were being interviewed."

    He seemed to measure her.

    "There was an older woman who sometimes came with them, but she never entered the store. I always figured her for one of their mothers. But... " He paused for a moment. "I always thought it was strange the way she watched them-like a hawk. I figured maybe she wanted to make sure they didn't steal nothing."

    "Did they ever try to steal anything?"


    "How about the black car? Did you see it or its driver before?"

    "Can't recall. The place is a damned gas station-cars coming and going all goddamned day and night." He picked up the remote, clicked the television back on.

    Tessa stood, took a card out of her purse and scribbled her home phone number on the back, knowing her time with Mr. Simms had ended. "I hope you're feeling better soon, Mr. Simms. If you think of anything else, or even if you just want to talk, you can reach me at this number."

    He took the card, glanced at it, then looked up at her face. "I'm leaving town as soon as I get out of here. Going to stay with my brother in Omaha, maybe move there."

    And Tessa knew he was being cautious, too. "Good luck. And thank you."

    She walked out of his room and down the hallway, running what he'd told her through her mind. Four girls about the same age, always together, most of the time under the watchful eye of an older woman. Never spoke. Never smiled. Walked to the store to buy candy dressed in shabby clothes.

    Perhaps they were sisters or best friends, and the older woman was someone's mother. It wasn't surprising that they didn't talk to anyone else, given that they probably spoke little or no English, but it was a little odd that they didn't chatter with each other. Teenage girls were not exactly known for being quiet. It was strange, too, that they never smiled. Whoever heard of teenagers on a somber candy binge?

    The shabby clothes pointed to a life of poverty. Perhaps the girls were wearing hand-me-downs or Salvation Army cast-offs, cobbling together a wardrobe out of bits and pieces no one else wanted, seeing scorn and pity in other people's eyes, feeling ashamed just to be seen.

    Tessa knew only too well what that felt like.

    ¡Por favor, Señor, ayúdeme!

    The girl hadn't been wearing shoes-a dangerous thing on city streets. That tended to support Mr. Simms belief that she lived nearby. So perhaps that's where Tessa should start.

    She glanced at her watch, saw that it was nearly three. That gave her a good hour and half before dark to walk the streets, knock on doors, look around for signs of gang activity. Most drive-bys in Denver were gang-related. In fact, Tessa hadn't heard of one that wasn't. The victim was a teenager and came from poverty, both of which fit a gang theory.

    She lifted her gaze and saw him come around the corner. He was wearing dark blue cable-knit sweater instead of a black leather jacket, but she would have recognized him anywhere. And she could tell from his scowl that he recognized her, too.

    The breath left her lungs in a rush. She took one step backwards on unsteady legs, then another, her heart slamming in her chest, her lungs too empty to scream. Then beside her, she saw the fire alarm.

    She lunged for it, found herself hauled up against a rock-hard chest, a steel hand clamped over her mouth, her feet lifted off the ground.


    Julian saw she was about to pull the fire alarm and did the only thing he could-clamped a hand over her mouth and pulled her out of the hallway and into the nearest room, a large closet full of linens. He kicked the door shut behind him and worked to subdue one-hundred-twenty pounds of desperate, terrified female that kicked, twisted and struggled in his arms.

    He turned her to face him, held her fast. "I'm not going to hurt you, Tessa."
    At the sound of her name, she froze, and Julian found himself looking into the biggest, bluest eyes he'd ever seen. Framed by long, sooty lashes, they stared up at him in unblinking horror. Her face was pale, her skin creamy and translucent apart from a few tiny freckles on her nose. She felt small in his arms, fragile and soft. Holding her this close, he could feel her heart pound, smell her fear, taste her panic.

    "If I wanted to kill you, you'd already be dead." He'd said it to calm her, realized when her pupils dilated that his words had somehow had the opposite affect. "I'm going to release you, and you're going to stand here and listen to me, got it?"

    She nodded.

    He lowered her to her feet, let her go-and found himself staring at the working end of a sweet little .22 revolver. Where the hell had that come from?

    Smooth, Darcangelo. What's your day job again? Special agent, you say?

    "S-stay away from me!" She was trembling-not a good thing when her finger rested on the trigger of a gun pointed at his chest. It hurt to get shot, even wearing Kevlar. "I-I saw you that night! I know you were there!"

    "Put it down, Ms. Novak. I told you-I'm not going to hurt you."

    "Why should I believe that? I know you're carrying a gun. I felt it beneath your sweater!" Her voice quavered, hovering somewhere between rage and terror. She gripped the handle of the gun with two hands, steadied it.

    He weighed his options. He could tell her he was a federal agent-except that she was a reporter. How could he be sure she wouldn't splash his name all over the damned paper? He could disarm her, but there was a chance he'd hurt her or she'd pull the trigger either accidentally or on purpose. Neither option was ideal.
    He took one slow step toward her. "Put down the gun."

    "Not a chance! You came here to kill him, didn't you? You came here to kill Mr. Simms so he couldn't talk to the police!"

    He'd come to question the old guy, but he didn't want to tell her that. "If that's what you think, shoot me. Here, I'll even make it easy for you." He took another step forward, stretched his arms out to his sides. "Aim just to left of my breastbone. A little twenty-two round will ricochet inside my ribcage, shred my lungs and heart, and I'll be dead before I hit the floor."

    She gaped at him in surprise, and her gaze dropped to his chest.

    It was the break Julian needed.

    He pivoted out of the line of fire, grabbed her wrist, wrenched the .22 from her grasp. It took less force than he'd imagined, and he heard her gasp-whether in surprise or pain, he couldn't tell. He turned to face her, found her rubbing her wrist and watching him fearfully through those blue eyes.

    "I told you to put it down. You should have listened." He popped out the cylinder, tapped the bullets into his hand, and pocketed the rounds. Then he snapped the cylinder into place and handed the gun back to her.
    The damned thing had been fully loaded and ready to fire.

    She dropped the little pistol into her purse, her wary gaze never leaving him. "H-how do you know my name?"

    "I know almost everything about you." He recited what he'd learned after doing a digging on her this morning. "Born in Rosebud, Texas, on March 9, 1979, to Linda Lou Bates, age 14. Father unknown. Grew up on welfare and food stamps with your mother and maternal grandfather. Graduated Rosebud-Lott High School in 1997 with a GPA of three-nine-eight and left Rosebud behind the next day."

    No longer pale, her cheeks had flushed red with what Julian supposed was anger or embarrassment. He continued.

    "You earned an associates degree in English from Austin Community College in 1999-the year you changed your last name to Novak. Moved to Athens to study journalism at the University of Georgia and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Then you took your first reporting job at the Savannah Morning News. You moved to Denver three years ago to take a seat on-."

    "I-I don't know who you are, but I'm getting security!" Quick on her dressy little feet, she darted past him toward the door.

    He caught her easily, turned her about, and hauled her against him-just as the door opened and two middle-aged women wearing blue cleaning uniforms walked in. Unsure what she might say and wanting to avoid a scene and get rid of the women, Julian ducked down and silenced her with his mouth.

    Tessa heard the door open behind her, felt the hot shock of his lips on hers and, in dazed disbelief, realized what he was doing. He was trying to shush her, trying to control her. It was nothing less than assault, and it both stunned and enraged her. She pushed against his chest to no avail, tried to scream, but when she opened her mouth, his tongue invaded, turning her scream to a stifled squeak.

    A bolt of heat, unexpected and unwanted, shot through her, and her insides seemed to melt as he attacked her senses, his tongue teasing hers with stolen strokes, his lips pressing hot and unyielding against hers. She couldn't stop herself from noticing how hard his body felt, couldn't stop the minty taste of his toothpaste from flooding her mouth, couldn't help taking in the scent of him-spice with just a hint of leather.

    He's a stranger, Tess-maybe even a murderer.

    Tessa's mind knew it, but her body didn't seem to care. The adrenaline in her blood warmed to pheromone, icy rage to steam. And before she realized it, she had quit fighting him, quit fearing him, quit breathing. Worse, she'd begun to kiss him back, her tongue curling with his, her bones going liquid as his hand slid slowly up her spine.

    Behind her, the women gasped, giggled.

    Tessa had forgotten all about them.

    "¡Perdónenos!" Pardon us!

    The door closed, and Tessa realized dimly that the women had gone.

    But he didn't quit kissing her, not all at once. He nipped her tongue, drew her lower lip into his mouth, sucked it. Then, abruptly, he grasped her shoulders and held her out before him.

    "I hope you listen closely, Ms. Novak, because I'd hate to see you on an autopsy slab." His eyes were darkest blue. His dark brows were bent together in a frown, his square jaw clean-shaven, his lips unusually full for a man's. "I know you get paid to sensationalize other people's suffering, but this is one crime you'd better leave to the cops. You've already stirred up enough trouble with today's article. It would be best for both of us if you don't write another."

    "Sensationalize-? You-! Oh!" She was so furious she could barely speak. Tears of rage pricked her eyes. "I watched that girl die! She begged me to help her, and I couldn't! But I'm going to do my best to help her now. I'm going to find out who killed-"

    He gave her a little shake. "What you're going to do is get yourself killed! Let the cops do their job. Go chase an ambulance or something."

    "Let go of me!" She jerked away from him, wiped a hand across her mouth, tried to erase the lingering evidence of his kiss. "You drag me in here, assault me, insult me and then try to tell me how to do my job? Who are you?"

    "Are we on or off the record?"


    "You don't need to know who I am."

    "Off the record, then."
    He seemed to hesitate. "I'm Julian Darcangelo, and I'm one of the good guys."

    "That's a scary thought." Tessa thought looked like one of the bad guys-a shadowy, criminal type. She didn't realize she'd spoken those last words aloud until the corner of his mouth turned up in a sardonic grin.

    "You know better than to judge people by appearances, Ms. Bates. Oh, I'm sorry-it's Novak, isn't it? And next time you hold a gun on someone, don't let him get so close. Never take your eyes off his."

    Then he brushed past her, opened the door and strode out into the hallway.

    By the time her legs were steady enough for her to follow him, he was gone.

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    Never Seduce a Contest.... winner
    Please email me your address!

    Thanks to everyone for playing and to Sabrina Jeffries (who just has returned from the bus tour and so should give us a recap ;) ) for such a great prize!
    well that sucks rocks
    It was bad enough when I figured it wasn't historical... it isn't even a romance.

    le sigh

    When a someone asked Susan Kay Law if it wasn't a romance what was it. She responded
    What is it, Kathy? Hmm. I believe the current plan is simply to put fiction on the spine.

    "Pissed Off Forty-something Lit" probably sums it up best.

    I am sure that makes someone happy but I think it sucks rocks. Well at least I hope it was truly a book she was burning to write and not that she couldn't sell a western or historical because I could swear it use to say on her site the next book as a historical.

    Maybe she just needed a break and will return to romance later? We can hope!
    You Give Love a Bad Name
    I am on very few yahoo groups. I think there are six: three author lists, two historical reader lists and a trade group. Oh and there is the brotherhood list but it is no mail because there is no way in hell I could keep up with it, but I do go check it out once in a blue moon.

    The rest are author only, newsletter or update type lists. LOVE those... really every author should have one. Even if you don't pay for a professional newsletter or have the puter skills to do one, a simple text post is grand. And if you don't have a website, this lil reader thinks this is a must. Linda Howard I am looking at you! LOL not that you see it but it is the thought that counts *g*.

    So I am not 'up' on the common rules of these things, at least in romanceland.

    But if out of a 25 post digest, there are seven posts from you and your significant other talking about your lust and/or love for one another in addition to another six posts from other members talking about your lust and/or love for one another, you need to shut up about it.

    Or is it just me that finds that crap annoying, boring and stupid. If you need an audience to talk to the lurve of your life, I think one or all of three things.

    A. you are a sock and playing both the love and the lovee
    B. things aren't really all that at home
    C. you are both attention whores

    GET. A. ROOM. Crazy thing... but people might be looking for book info, excerpts and things to do with the writing. I know I should just unsub and now recall why I generally delete the digest without even opening them.

    This is prolly common on old lists where people are friends and have known members forever and ever. But yahoo groups are free! Go create one just for your group or something. Or make the personal chatty posts but don't carry it... and on... and on... where it hits over four digests (that is over 100 posts at 25 a digest).

    Am I just being a bitch and not understanding the 'fun'. The group's description does list 'everything under the sun' as allowable posts. But long ass conversations about your lurve seem above and beyond. And the list isn't a fan list or a discussion list but THE AUTHOR list. As this is not the first time I have seen this type of thing on list I am changing my membership to Special Notices - Receive only important email notices from the group moderator. And will just visit via web when I want to look for info. LOL after all that my question is:

    Is this is common and acceptable on many author lists?

    And for the love of god, cut the text in the posts when you are replying. Really I think that is what pushed me over the edge, not the 15 out of 25 posts in the last four digests but the one to two sentence replies on top of 10 other replies for one post.

    In case you don't know this... that makes scrolling through the digest a pain and even with the cool new set up yahoo is using for digest form it makes understanding where posts end and a new one begin difficult. If it causes the digest to be long enough, gmail doesn't display the whole thing. So you have to click a link and wait for it to load to read the full digest. I hate to think how long this takes for people with dial up.

    So please try to trim your posts when you reply and leave only what you are replying too! LOL sez I.
    CLAIMING THE COURTESAN **APR 2007** now with more ho'ness
    He would marry her, and possess her in every way possible.

    The Duke of Kylemore knows her as Soraya, London’s most celebrated courtesan. Men fight duels to spend an hour in her company. And only he comes close to taming her. Flying in the face of society, he decides to make her his bride; then, she vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

    Dire circumstances have forced Verity Ashton to barter her innocence and change her name for the sake of her family. But Kylemore destroys her plans for a respectable life when he discovers her safe haven. He kidnaps her, sweeping her away to his isolated hunting lodge in Scotland, where he vows to bend her to his will.

    There he seduces her anew. Verity spends night after night in his bed… and though she still plans her escape, she knows she can never flee the unexpected, unwelcome love for the proud, powerful lover who claims her both body and soul.

    No cover yet but there is an excerpt on Anna Campbell's site. This is her first book and is being released as a Avon Romantic Treasure in April, 2007 - which I guess is a big deal. (I know nothing about avon's lines)

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    Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one
    I have to say I think beth and jane of Dear Author are both swell people and personally I like them, even though I have only emailed with beth like twice. (yes candy, I still owe smart bitches a guest bitch)

    I also think it is totally cool to dislike them or think they are evol. Because I think it comes down to opinion and not everyone is going to like everyone. And hey, I think you can think, say or post how much you hate me so why would I care if you hate others.

    Every author takes a risk of people hating their book when they publish and by extension them. They put it out there for the world and need to take the good with the bad.

    Every blogger/reviewer/message board poster takes a risk of people hating their opinions and by extension them when they post in a public forum. We are putting our shit out for the world to see and we need to take the good with the bad.

    Saying that ;)

    THIS comment I so don't get...
    Whew. Now Robin's question about Beth's review. I believe I made a pretty strong distinction between the content of a review, the subject of the criticism (the book and not the author) and matters of tone. Tone has to do with personal style (see above), with the established relationship between the reviewer and the reviewer's known audience, and with the format. Beth's review was written for her own weblog, not for a website that advertises itself first and foremost as a book review 'publication' (and I use that word loosely). And her tone fit into her overall approach when she does talk about books: she's outrageous. She's emotive. She puts it all out there. Her review of ABOSAA is not professional or meant to be taken that way. If a newspaper called her up and asked her to write her review up to be printed on their Books page, I am certain the approach and tone would change.

    Are we paying for Dear Author? When the hell did they become anything more than a reader blog?

    Me thinks she just doesn't like Jane... so call a fucking spade a spade and say jane sucks if that is what you think. But wrapping it up as beth's review which states:
    "I dunno, can you even tell your ass from your elbow anymore, woman?"

    speaking directly to the author (who prolly only saw it after minons emailed her) is peachy keen lil reader opinon and jane is the big bad evol, seems uh dumb.

    But beth is pretty fucking direct and there is that ever famous Foley review (which starts out... Dear Gaelan Foley... just saying). And sara donati seems to be speaking in circles approving of people she likes and slapping the wrists of people she doesn't.

    That or Jane really is just an ignorant slut. hmmm or I am... damn me to hell!
    Murphy is out...
    Elizabeth does Lori

    Tara Marie should be happy to know:
    And... (drumroll please) I recently agreed to a two-book contract for a horror series I’m starting. It’ll be written under the name L.L. Foster, but that’s all I really know so far.

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    shut up, shut up, shut up
    Shut Up!

    No I am not referring to any authors, message boards or online blow ups. Odd that ;)

    There are certain phrases I just don't see being used in historicals. The nifty etymology online says:
    Shut up (v.) first recorded 1840

    Now the book in question is set in 1810, so I think the usage is wrong anyway. But even if it had been set in 1840, I would have found it odd for a young miss to say shut up to a bastard son of a duke.

    Is that just me?

    What phrases throw you out of a story? It surpises me sometimes how old some slang is... my favorite word is really old!
    someone so should have stopped me
    I am half way through and I think I have read this book before. It reminds me of The Seduction. But I recall liking The Seduction.

    Does Holt have more than two characters?

    Hero - bored rake who takes his pleasure where he wants

    Heroine - virgin with no clue what to do down there but suddenly understand she desires the hero... she is tingley you see... and she gets him, really gets him and understands him in a way no one else can

    with in minutes

    cuz she is oh so worldly you know

    Bad Gays! Confused Gays! (or maybe bi)! are all around... ten will get you twenty the bad guy is one of the gays. I may quickly skim to the end just cuz but hell if I were the type to return a book, this would so go back.
    Scandal's Daughter by Christine Wells
    This is another new to me, historical author with a book coming out November 2007.

    I need to finish the list of upcoming books I want to keep an eye on because man there are lots. I just hope some turn out to be grand reads!

    The Earl of Carleton’s sole commitment is to his hedonistic lifestyle until he makes a promise to a dying man. He must find his childhood friend a husband in three months or marry her himself.

    The daughter of a notorious femme fatale, Gemma Maitland has the body of a siren, a morbid aversion to matrimony and a knack for fixing people’s lives. He needs to marry her off before she starts fixing him, but when practical Gemma suddenly discovers her inner temptress, is Carleton man enough to resist?
    There is an excerpt here and you can find Wells on her blog. I really like the excerpt, which I have no business reading this far out!

    I love a friends to lovers story and adore it when they are childhoold sweethearts. The biggest factor I have to over come with these types of stories is the wasted time. But that is another post ;).

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    Avon goes medievals again
    Gayle Callen will be writing medievals again for Avon. Only not under Gayle Callen... her medieval name is Julia Latham.

    Wonder why since 'Gayle Callen' has medievals already. I haven't really liked her last few books so I hope Julia Latham will be a return of what was grand in His Bride.

    I have Callen's medievals tbr

    Do I even ask if you are gonna read it kristie ;)

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    I've got one hand in my pocket And the other one is giving a high five

    Upcoming pocket books... still can't figure out how to save the covers to post. I will try to find them later. maybe...

    Skin by Karin Tabke **April 2007**
    High-powered and beautiful Francesca Donatello is looking for the sexiest man on the planet to help launch her new magazine, Skin. Gorgeous undercover cop Reese Bronson needs to infiltrate the Donatello organized crime family and learn why Francesca’s mob boss father was assassinated, and this photo shoot is his ticket inside. While Reese sheds his clothes for the camera, he and Francesca share some close encounters of the very personal kind, until someone decides Francesca is the next target. On the run, they dodge bullets and dead bodies—but not each other. From San Francisco to the rugged plains of Wyoming, the two share secrets, shed clothing and inhibitions, and learn that in order to survive they must trust each other.

    posted for jane with love

    Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta **May 2007**
    After living at Casa Dracula for a year, Milagro, who has been hoping for a ring from her vampire boyfriend Oswald Grant, learns that not all vampires are fairly benign. At a Grant family party, Milagro is deeply disturbed by a distant relative who is a member of a Neo-Vamp organization that promotes the fantasy of vampires rather than the reality. Later, when Oswald is out of town, the predatory vamp attacks Milagro, informing her he’s heard her blood is an orgasmic elixir. Milagro fears not only for her life but that she’s becoming a vampire.

    An independent film producer has bought one of her screenplays for a monster flick, so she flees Casa Dracula and joins the film crew. Butsomething supernatural appears to be afoot at the posh desert spa where the crew is living. Sure, health resorts provide their clientele with all kinds of rejuvenating treatments—but could this one be a front for vain vampires who rely on human blood to maintain the glow of youth? And when Milagro finds herself in danger, will Oswald and his bold band of bloodsuckers come through for her—or will she end up on the menu?

    I don't want funny vamps. Well except for Erin McCarthy and that is only because I am so her bitch and haven't read it yet to say I hate it or not. What can I say, I make for a bad bitch but I try! I had a point... oh I don't want funny vamps. I want blood and horror and really bad boys, with a love story.

    How to Abduct a Highland Lord by Karen Hawkins **Jan 2007**
    Determined to save her family from a bloody clan war, Fiona MacLean kidnaps and marries their greatest enemy, Black Jack Kincaid. After a night of debauchery, the unsuspecting rogue is stunned to wake up married to the woman he once loved and has never stopped desiring. With the tense peace between their clans resting on their unlikely union, will Jack redeem himself, rekindle their passion, and win Fiona’s heart—which he finally realizes he has always desired?

    I forgot Karen Hawkins left Avon. Is this her first pocket? I like the summary.

    Madame’s Deception by Renee Bernard **Feb 2007**
    When naïve bookworm and virgin Jocelyn Tolliver learns that her mother is the notorious madame of an elite London brothel she is stunned, but grants her mother’s dying wish and promises to take care of the brothel and its ladies. With the help of her mother’s loyal butler, she transforms herself, and becomes the beautiful but reclusive Madame DeBourcier.

    After an unexpected feud breaks out between the Crimson Belle and a rival brothel, Jocelyn needs a titled lover to gain political clout to protect her housemates so she befriends the handsome and wealthy Lord Colwick, who of course, views this as an invitation to seduce her…

    Will someone PLEASE help this woman get her website back online? oy... rival brothels... that makes me giggle. I think I like the cover, not that it matters since I am too stupid to save it to post.

    A Wicked Gentleman by Jane Feather
    Nell Dagenham and her sister-in-law Ellie, both widowed with young children, decide to spend a month in London after their friend Livia inherits a fabulous house in Cavendish Square. There they meet a determined prospective buyer, who turns out to be Lord Harry Bonham, a charming member of London’s aristocracy.

    An immediate attraction develops between Harry and Nell, but little does she know that Harry works as a code breaker for British Intelligence and his wild interest in her is due to an encryption device he believes is hidden in the house. Though his passion for Nell is real, he can’t reveal his secret life to her without putting her and her friends in danger.

    There is a note on the cover that says 'cover not final', which is good since it looks like the chick is masturbating with a walking cane.

    Tough Enough by Michele Albert
    Will Tiernay is an operative with Avalon, a topsecret, private army of mercenaries who specialize in recovering stolen art and antiquities. Tracking down an art forger, the trail leads Will directly to a former lover, Mia Schaeffer—and though he knows he shouldn’t get involved with a suspect, the sizzle is still as hot as ever. He knows their renewed affair will blow up when Mia discovers who he really is and why he’s suddenly back in her life—but Mia has changed in some surprising ways, too. Despite the danger and the doubts they manage to fall in love. But can they stay alive?

    I liked All Night Long and have Hide in Plain Sight tbr.

    If You Desire by Kresley Cole ***APRIL 2007***
    Highlander Hugh MacCarrick was reckless in his youth, especially since he fell in love in love with heartbreakingly beautiful, rich, and unattainable Jane Weyland, the daughter of his superior.

    Now, ten years later, Hugh is wealthy, an assassin in Her Majesty’s Service, and still secretly in love with Jane. When he receives a message that Jane’s life is in danger and is summoned to protect her, can he resist the overwhelming urge to make her his?

    It is such a good thing I haven't read If You Dare yet cuz damn that is a long time between books in a series. CRAP I didn't put the dates on here.

    The Perils of Pursuing a Prince by Julia London ***APRIL 2007***
    Desperate to avoid being married off to the first bidder, Greer Fairchild travels to Wales to obtain an advance on her inheritance from her uncle. But upon arrival, she learns her uncle died and a distant relative, Rhodrick Glendower, the Prince of Powys and the Earl of Radnor, now controls her inheritance.

    A man rumored to have a dark past, the prince not only refuses to give Greer her inheritance, he locks her up in his castle. Although Greer is a prisoner, she is free to roam Rhodrick’s castle, and she finds a portrait of her deceased mother. Until Greer can put all the pieces together, she must fight the dangerously strong attraction that’s flared up between her and the rough and lonely prince.

    hmmm I didn't care much for The Hazards of Hunting a Duke but this sounds interesting

    Dark Defender by Alex Morgan ***Nov 2007***
    When Paladin warrior Blake Trahern learns that his old friend Judge Nichols has been mysteriously killed, Blake vows to uncover the secrets surrounding his death. Investigating the murder brings him into contact with Nichols’s daughter Brenna, a beautiful and headstrong young woman whose innocent, passionate soul is irresistible to the weary warrior. Danger lurks in the form of traitors on the Paladins’ side of the eternal war against the dark forces of the world, and Blake is determined to protect Brenna, even if it costs him his life. But is he willing to risk his heart?

    I would be happier if she was writing as Pat Pritchard. No one asked me....

    Big, Bad & Barbaric by Jaid Black **March 2007***
    When Lord Mikael Aleksson learns of evidence that could expose the secret civilization of New Sweden to the world above, he leads a mission to the surface to seek out a picture-taking device that may have captured images of the neo-Vikings.

    Anti-government activist Holly Compton always has an eye out for trouble, and when her colleague Drake Simon mysteriously disappears, Holly’s certain that a government conspiracy is afoot. Tracking her friend to rural Alaska, Holly finds photographs of oddly clothed, heavily muscled men—the same men who are now after her! Struggling to
    stay one step ahead of her pursuers, Holly is determined to escape whatever fate befell Drake. But can she resist the passion that sparks in her hunter’s eyes?

    OMG at that title... hee

    The Marcelli Princess by Susan Mallery **Feb 2007**
    The beloved Marcelli family saga wouldn’t be complete without Mia’s story. Although she is the youngest of the family, her life is certainly not lacking in drama! When the father of Mia’s son—the man she believed died years ago— suddenly turns up in her bedroom claiming he’s someone else entirely, Mia’s in for an even bigger surprise. It turns out her son is the heir of the Crown Prince of Calandria and he’s come back to claim what’s his. But the bigger question is, does he also want to reclaim Mia’s heart?

    hmmm this sounds like it could be a Harlequin. Think she got mixed up? I have never read her pocket books.

    Who in the heck is buying all these movie tie in books and wrestling stuff? Star Trek - check, X-men - check, Spiderman - check, Hellboy - check, and more I forget. I had no clue they were so popular. Who knew...

    V.C. Andrews is one of the most famous and beloved authors of fiction today, and her popularity continues to soar. There are more than 100 million copies of her books in pring, and she has been translated into 22 foreign languages.

    Someone please tell pocket SHE IS DEAD. Thank you.

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